Netherlands: Muslim Brotherhood influence

Netherlands: Muslim Brotherhood influence

Yahia Bouyafa (47) from IJsselstein, publicly unknown, would be high up on the list of 100 most influential Muslims in the Netherlands, if one would exist.  The Moroccan-Dutch is on a number of boards.  He's chairman of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in the Netherlands (FION), the National Muslim Organizations (LMO), the Council of Moroccan Mosques in the Netherlands (RMMN), and the charitable organizations Europe Trust Nederland and Maroc Relief.  Until recently he was a government partner as chairman of the Contact Groep Islam (CGI).

Bouyafa also heads the mosque where he lives, has a media company, is board-member of the Dutch Muslim Council.  He seems to dedicate himself for Dutch Muslims.  But is that the case?

The IJsselstein resident belong to a European network of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), according to public sources on the internet.  This organization, founded in 1928 in Egypt, started off with Islamic terrorism, but has meanwhile sworn off violence.  Currently the Muslims Brothers pursue an Islamic world-empire with legal means.  Also in Europe, where the Brothers settled down in the 1960s.  They have branches in many countries, and, according to the official Arabic website of the Brotherhood (, a European umbrella organizations: FIOE.

Bouyafa's FIO is part of that.  he says he doesn't know that the Muslim Brotherhood see the FIOE as their European branch.  Bouayafa: "With the FIOE we want to form institutes to legitimize our presence in Europe.  We don't get instructions from the Muslim Brotherhood."

Last year Bouyafa successfully sued De Telegraaf and NOVA, who could not show his relationship with the MB, according to the court.  The connection with the Arabic MB site wasn't known at the time.

Also in other countries, heads of organizations linked to the Brothers, deny belonging to the MB, says Harvard researcher Lorenzo Vidino, whose book The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe and North America will be published in 2010.

According to Vidino the denial is an MB pattern that is legally difficult to refute.  "The European Muslim Brotherhood doesn't have any formal structure, there are no membership records."  But there is interaction and financial support between branches.

Vidino describes the European MB-network as an "Islamic jet-set", which consists of a few hundred successful Muslims.  There are linked by marriages, old friendships, business relationships and the MB ideology.  Their names appear in countless interest clubs.

"Not all Muslim Brothers are recognizable as such," says an AIVD report from October 2007.  According to the intelligence service the Brothers try to build good relations with Western politicians, journalists and the social mid-field.  They set themselves up this way as though they look after wide-ranging interests and are legitimate spokespeople for the Islamic community.  With the final goal - but this is not publicly proclaimed - to create an ultra-orthodox Islamic pillar in Western Europe.

In the Netherlands, Bouyafa has an impressive network of associations and organizations.  The Volkskrant mapped them out on the basis of public registers.  He's not only in various umbrella organizations, as chairman of Europe Trust Nederland he also has interests in real-estate.  "Rich people from Qatar," according to Bouyafa, are financing the building of a new mosque in Slotervaart (Amsterdam), via this organization.  In February 2008, he bought with co-administrator Kamis Gacha a building for 1.1 million euro in the Hague.

Shortly before Geert Wilders' movie Fitna came out, Gacha called on spiritual leaders abroad to 'launch all available means' against that 'harmful move about Islam'.  Bouyafa appeared in that period as a moderate Muslim representative who explained to the Arab world that there's freedom of expression in the Netherlands.  But in the security service circles they doubted his sincerity.

Bouyafa is also looked at suspiciously in the Muslim community.  His critics fear that he will succeed in getting hold of broadcasting time with the Muslim Broadcasting Foundation (Stichting Moslimomroep, SMO), in which he's represented.  They point to his 'intimidating behavior' as board-member of the Foundation for Islamic Airtime (SVIZ, Verzorging Islamitische Zendtijd); the responsible administration for two Muslim broadcasters.

Those broadcasters lost their license in October, after the SVIZ went under due to internal battles, clientalism and alleged financial mismanagement.  Recently former NMO director Frank William sat in detention for ten days on suspicions of fraud with broadcasting money.

Particularly Bouyafa, who was on the board of the SVIZ for the NMO, was seen as an agitator, according to talks with at least eight of those involved and from emails.  Many felt intimidated by Bouyafa, such as Maurice Koopman, business director for SVIZ.  Koopman (former director of VARA), stepped in a 'very unbiased', but quickly ran up against a 'power-play of powers who aspiried for exclusive control of the broadcasting time meant for all Muslims within the public broadcaster".  Bouyafa and associated refused to allow Koopman to inspect the finances and denied him access to the NMO building where he was supposed to have an office.

Bouyafa increased pressure on SVIZ chairman Mohammed Sini to fire Koopman, which he refused.  Meanwhile treasurer Famile Arslan shut down the NMO money flow.  As the final means, she says, to get to inspect the bookkeeping.  The NMO promptly sued Sini.  The broadcaster lost.  The court-case was paid by broadcasting money.

According to Bouyafa things were the other way around.  He was the transparent board-member who denounced abuses by the other broadcaster (NIO), while Koopman, Arslan and others systematically worked against him.  He dismissed that his acts and emails were seen as intimidating.  "I had expressly used tough language to shake people awake."

His enemies link him to the Muslim Brotherhood to blacken his name, he says.  He thinks it's unnecessary to simply remedy this problem by renouncing the MB's European arm.  He says he'll only act if the AIVD says that the federation is dangerous.

The AIVD doesn't say the MB is a danger to the state, but keep an eye on the network.  Researchers are divided as to how far the MB threatens the integration of Muslims.  Some see the Brotherhood as a social movement which is orthodox but is not dangerous.  Others see the MB as a Trojan horse which wants to take over power in Europe.

Vidino is in the middle, but is more pessimistic than optimistic.  "Policy makers are in general ignorant and naive.  It's a delicate game: you shouldn't strengthen them, but also not exclude them."  Vidino says that Denmark showed in 2005 what such isolation can lead to.  During the cartoon crisis the MB played a provocative role.

Quietly the Muslim Brothers win influence in the Netherlands, say a growing number of concerned Muslims.  They prevent the development of the second and third generations.  One of them sighs: They say they stand up for people, but put their ideology first.

Source: Volkskrant (Dutch)

See also:
* Netherlands: Muslim broadcaster increasingly controlled by radicals
* Netherlands: Government discussion partner has ties to Muslim Brotherhood
* Netherlands: Muslim group wants correction on allegation of being radical
* Netherlands: Muslim TV recognises Ahmadiyya

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